Sound Advice

The Flyer's music writers tell you where you can go.

November 13, 2003

So you want to know what listening to one of Neil Hamburger's comedy routines is like? Have you ever had a scab on your arm that you just couldn't leave alone? You continue to remind yourself that fooling with it just slows the healing process and increases the likelihood of infection and scarring. But your fingers are helpless before the seductive wiles of this scab. Next thing you know, you are pulling it off, S-L-O-W-L-Y, reveling in a vague approximation of "original pain," and eating it. Yes, eating it. That's what listening to a Neil Hamburger routine is like. On the one hand, it's revolting. On the other, it's irresistible. And you really hope nobody sees you doing it.

Hamburger is a comb-over answer to Andy Kaufman's Tony Clifton character, minus the bluster. His gimmick is his utter lack of comic talent. It's funny business for people so hip they even like their irony served up with a dose of irony. Hamburger's protracted cultural insights are often right on and funny in a grin-grin-nudge-nudge sort of way, but seldom are they worth the wait. And that's just how Hamburger likes it. So when Friday rolls around, be sure to get an ugly date with an awful personality. Take him/her out for a really crappy meal, then go to Stop 345 Friday, November 14th, and Saturday, November 15th, to see Neil Hamburger, the comic who is not supposed to be funny, on purpose. You'll probably be glad that you did. Or maybe you won't. I don't know. (Groan) How many rock stars does it take to screw in a light bulb? --Chris Davis

Detroit soul singer Nathaniel Mayer scored a minor hit in the '60s with "Village of Love" but is mostly unknown outside of the Motor City, where he seems to be something of an urban legend. He's on the comeback trail now and has been embraced by the garage-rock scene. He'll be making a Memphis appearance Saturday, November 15th, at the Hi-Tone CafÇ, with The Reigning Sound.

With his not-quite-Nashville twang and literate songwriting voice, Kentucky singer-songwriter Chris Knight has drawn comparisons to such roots-rock heroes as Steve Earle and John Prine. Knight will showcase songs from his well-received third album, The Jealous Kind, when he performs at the Hi-Tone CafÇ Tuesday, November 18th.

Or if you want to go to one of the sources of the style, you can catch Willis Alan Ramsey. Though not very well-known by younger adherents of the style, Ramsey helped give birth to the alternative-country movement, his highly regarded 1972 eponymous debut standing alongside the music of Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, the Flatlanders, and higher profile "outlaws" like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings at the birth of anti-Nashville roots music. Ramsey never really followed up that debut and pretty much disappeared from the music biz after its release, but his name was kept alive by the legion of artists who covered his songs, including Jennings, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, and, most infamously, the Captain & Tennille, who turned Ramsey's "Muskrat Candlelight" into a hit called "Muskrat Love."

Ramsey resurfaced in the '90s through his partnership with songwriting acolyte Lyle Lovett, collaborating with Lovett to write songs for '90s albums Joshua Judges Ruth and The Road to Ensenada and having Lovett pay tribute on his 2001 covers album Step Inside This House. This has led Ramsey to start touring again, and this week he'll return to Neil's, the site of his last local gig, for a show Saturday, November 15th.

--Chris Herrington

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